Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Somalia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Somalia, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 22 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Somalia (Special Case)

Somalia remains a Special Case for a ninth consecutive year due to the lack of a viable central government since 1991. Control of its geographic area is divided among the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland, the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and the remainder of the country nominally under the control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Somalia currently lacks a national governing structure that could assume responsibility for addressing the country's human trafficking problem. During the reporting period, fighting continued between TFG troops, allied militias, and African Union forces against anti-TFG forces, terrorist groups, and extremist elements. The TFG remained preoccupied with the task of securing government representatives and installations from attacks by such elements; in this perpetual state of insecurity the government was not able to address human trafficking. In addition, the TFG currently lacks the necessary means to identify, investigate, and address systemic issues in Somalia, including those related to forced labor and forced prostitution; its capacity to address human trafficking will not significantly increase without tangible progress in re-establishing governance and stability in Somalia.

Information regarding trafficking in Somalia remains extremely difficult to obtain or verify; however, the Somali territory is believed to be a source and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to conditions of forced labor and sex trafficking. As in previous years, trafficking victims were primarily trafficked within the country, from Somalia's south and central regions to the Puntland and Somaliland regions. Sources note a rise in reported trafficking cases during the reporting period. Somali women and girls may have been subject to sex trafficking in Garowe, the Puntland-administered part of Las Anod (Sool region), and pirate towns such as Eyl and Harardheere. Sources report a clearer link between piracy and human trafficking during the reporting period; girls are reportedly taken from coastal regions, particularly Bossaso, and placed in pirates' homes to be exploited in domestic and sexual servitude. Some female brothel owners, who can profit as much as $50 per client, kept victims in harsh conditions and meted out physical abuse as a means of compelling victims to work. There was reportedly an increase in the use of drugs to render victims unconscious during transport. In Somali society, certain groups are traditionally viewed as inferior and are marginalized; Somali Bantus and Midgaan are sometimes kept in servitude by more powerful Somali clan members as domestic workers, farm laborers, and herders.

Due to an inability to provide care for all family members, some desperate Somalis willingly surrender custody of their children to people with whom they share family relations and clan linkages; some of these children may become victims of forced labor or sex trafficking. While most child laborers work within their households or family business, some children may be forced into labor in agriculture, herding livestock, or in the construction industry.

Human smuggling is widespread in Somalia and evidence suggests that traffickers utilize the same networks and methods as those used by smugglers. Men, women, and children in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or congregated along coastal areas hoping to be smuggled to Europe or the Middle East remained particularly vulnerable to trafficking. There were reports of trafficking offenders preying on young women and children, mostly IDPs from South and Central Somalia, at marketplaces and in the streets, falsely promising them lucrative jobs outside Somalia. Dubious employment agencies facilitate human trafficking, targeting individuals desiring to migrate to the Gulf states for employment. Somali women are smuggled, sometimes via Djibouti, to destinations in the Middle East, including Yemen and Syria, as well as to Sudan and South Africa, where they are subjected to conditions of domestic servitude and forced prostitution. Somali men are subjected to conditions of forced labor as herdsmen and menial workers in the Gulf states. Somali children are reportedly smuggled to Saudi Arabia through Yemen for forced begging. Members of the Somali diaspora use fake offers of marriage to lure unsuspecting victims, many of whom are relatives, to Europe or the United States, where they are forced into commercial sexual exploitation. For example, in November 2010, U.S. authorities indicted 29 Somali gang members for prostituting four girls – including one 12-year-old – in several U.S. states. Ethiopian women are smuggled through Somalia to Yemen and onward to other destinations in the Middle East where they are forced into domestic servitude and prostitution.

According to the UN, the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict has been increasing over the past two years; although the exact figure is unknown, UN sources estimate that there are several hundred children in the forces of the TFG or its associated militias, and several thousand among the insurgent groups. Youth under the age of 18 continued to be recruited, including by force and deception, for direct participation in hostilities in central and southern Somalia. During the reporting period, extremist groups al-Shabaab and Hisbul Islam merged and jointly used systematic force and deception to target vulnerable children, sometimes as young as eight years old, for membership in their militias. These forces reportedly increased recruitment at schools and other educational facilities during the reporting period; al-Shabaab threatened to punish teachers and parents who refused to send their children to the training camps. The groups used children to plant roadside bombs and other explosive devices in addition to carrying out assassinations, portering, and domestic servitude. In Kismayo, Baidoa, and Merka, al-Shabaab obligated all boys 15 years of age and older to fight or face death; in November, al-Shabaab executed two children in Hurwaa District of Banadir region. Al-Shabaab also continued to forcibly recruit young girls who were then "married" to its militia leaders and used for sexual servitude, logistical support, and intelligence gathering. While the TFG's military reportedly improved its recruitment practices to prevent conscription of child soldiers into government ranks, UN sources reported that the TFG and its allied militias continued to unlawfully use children throughout the reporting period in their fighting forces. Without established birth registration systems, it remained difficult to determine the exact age of persons conscripted into armed groups.

The respective authorities operating in Somalia's three regions made few concrete efforts to address human trafficking during the reporting period; there was generally a lack of anti-trafficking efforts on all fronts – prosecution, protection, and prevention – in all regions of Somalia. There is a severe lack of capacity in every part of the country to adequately address the problem. Understanding of human trafficking and how to identify and address it remained low among government officials and the general population. TFG officials recognized trafficking as a problem, but acknowledged that it is not a priority.

None of the three regions have laws that specifically prohibit human trafficking, though the pre-1991 penal code outlaws forced and compulsory labor and local laws prohibit forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery in Somaliland. In December 2010, the Puntland Parliament enacted provisions prohibiting and punishing offenses under Islamic law when smugglers cause the death of smuggled or trafficked persons, prescribing punishments of between one and five years' imprisonment. However, there is neither a unified police force in the territory to enforce these laws, nor any authoritative legal system through which trafficking offenders could be prosecuted. There were no known prosecutions or convictions of human trafficking offenses, including by traditional or Shari'a courts, during the reporting period. Despite the existence of laws protecting children from conditions of forced labor, authorities did not enforce these against child traffickers. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for government officials and made no known efforts to investigate, prosecute, or punish government officials involved in trafficking offenses.

The government did not provide any protection services to victims of trafficking. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and local organizations began providing rented houses and reintegration services to rescued trafficking victims in Bossaso, Puntland. These facilities were dedicated to trafficking victims and accessible to male and female Somali and foreign victims. These organizations also placed child victims with families for care. During the reporting period, IOM and its local partners provided medical and psychological assistance, food, clothes, vocational training, and seed money for establishing small businesses to 10 victims of trafficking – eight in Puntland and two in Somaliland. IOM reported that clan elders brought a total of 50 suspected trafficking victims in Somaliland and Puntland to its attention. The government did not provide financial or in-kind assistance to these organizations. Government authorities did not utilize formal procedures to identify and protect victims of trafficking or refer them to available protection services. The government also did not provide assistance to any Somali nationals who were repatriated as victims of trafficking.

During the reporting period, there were no reports of formal conscription or forced recruitment of persons under the age of 18 into the TFG, Somaliland, or Puntland armed forces. During a November 2010 visit by the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, the TFG prime minister promised to investigate all reports of child soldiers, some of who may be trafficking victims, in the TFG army and, if found, to demobilize them. Also in December, the TFG named a Focal Point for Human Rights and Children with responsibility for addressing child soldier issues. Throughout the reporting period, the TFG also continued to improve its recruitment practices and participate in formal troop training to stop child soldier recruitment, including conscription. New recruits, trained in Uganda and Djibouti, were thoroughly vetted, and child soldiers were removed from the new units upon return to the country. However, there are reports that the TFG and allied forces continued to use a small number of children in armed service, some of whom may have been involuntary conscripts.

The government made no known efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. During the reporting period, the government did not conduct anti-trafficking information or education campaigns or make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Neither Somali national nor regional authorities implemented any programs to address forced child labor or provided assistance to non-governmental organizations to do so. Somalia is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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